When I first arrived at USC, I was overwhelmed. Totally and utterly overwhelmed. It wasn’t the academic rigor that got me, but rather the fact that I was by myself in a big city for the first time. Coming from the second smallest state in the U.S, I had never spent much time in a city; trees, deer, and cornfields were the norm for me, so the city life of Los Angeles was shocking. I knew coming in that I didn’t just want to make USC my home. I wanted to include LA since it contributes heavily to the many things I love about USC. For the first few weeks of the semester, I socially isolated myself and I later recognized it to be a defense mechanism to gain control over the new situation I was in. I thought I couldn’t get overwhelmed if I never left campus. I was wrong.
There is so much to do on campus — so many clubs, events, organizations, jobs, and more. I knew I had to change my approach to living in my new school and new city. I decided to get a job, do some volunteer work with the Joint Educational Project (JEP), and join a club, specifically the field hockey club team. I got a job with Trojan Events as an Event Usher and through it, I got to see so many cool speakers, musical and dramatic shows, and even a hologram musical performance backed by a live 50 piece orchestra. With field hockey, I chose this club because it was a sport I played competitively in high school and wanted to continue with. Almost every weekend during my first semester, we played games against different colleges and universities in California, sometimes driving three hours one way for a game. Field Hockey not only allowed me to leave campus for games, but also for social events with my team. I realized I didn’t feel overwhelmed because I had people with me to guide my exploration through the city. JEP was my time to familiarize myself with my environment. I volunteered at John Mack Elementary which is about 10 minutes off-campus via skateboard. Twice a week I volunteered as a TA and used my commute to familiarize myself with the neighborhood. In doing so, I became more confident in leaving campus.
The moral of the story is, by getting involved I was able to overcome my fear and truly involve myself in my new environment. Starting to do so allowed me to not be overwhelmed and gave me reasons to leave campus and explore. I can now proudly say that through my involvement, I have made friends that will last a lifetime, and I now take more trips outside of campus. I also prioritize the events I want to see and take part in the true USC experience on campus.
“Don’t let fear hold you back, put yourself out there.” -Elena Ikeocha